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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024
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Hillcrest Assoc. Celebrates 80 Years of Representing Business

Back in 1921 when the Hillcrest Business Association was formed, the commercial district was fairly sparse. Hillcrest was really a suburb then, but a fast-growing one that offered plenty of good buying opportunities.

“One of the key developments was when William Whitson started selling tract lots about 1907. Along First Avenue, some lots were going for only $1,000,” said Warren Simon, the HBA’s executive director.

Lot prices and most everything else has changed since then. Last week, the HBA and friends marked the 80th anniversary of the association with a few proclamations and speeches.

“Given the mood of the country, it wasn’t a celebration, more a get-together honoring the work of the association and its past leaders,” Simon said.

Although the exact number of businesses in the 1920s isn’t known, the district covered about 10 blocks, less than half of what it is today, and much less than the approximately 1,200 businesses that call Hillcrest home.

The neighborhood north of Downtown and centered around Fifth and University avenues supports a few large medical centers and a smattering of big retailers. But the great bulk of the enterprises are small, many with less than 10 employees.

The main business types are restaurants (some 120 as of last week), medical offices, support business services, and general retail.

Those businesses flourish because of consumers living in the neighborhood and a constant influx of visitors, many from other parts of the city, Simon said.

People enjoy visiting Hillcrest because of its density, eclectic mix of stores, and ease of access. An 800-space parking garage that opened in 1991 also helped relieve congestion and spurred more tourism, he said.

One of the biggest business districts in the city, the HBA manages several ongoing events that have grown in stature in recent years. This year’s CityFest, a weekend community street fair, in August drew about 140,000 people to the area, and the farmers market on Sundays on Normal Street also brings lots of shoppers into the area.

Among other services the HCA provides are increased security and street cleaning, and marketing programs to attract visitors.

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